This was the summer that felled us – bush, beach, communities, campers, firefighters, families.
We swallow smoke and worry. The loss of land, loved ones and livelihoods sits heavy in our hearts.
We wring our hands as homes, hamlets, towns and roads are reduced to rubble – nothing but the cinders of our memories.
Ash blackens beauty, flames darken hope.
Leaders stumble and swagger. Strength rises from unexpected people and places. Climate change deniers and campaigners raise defiant voices as farmlands, holiday havens, national parks, quiet towns and touring routes are razed. Hurt and fury smoulder.
We pray for rain, and when it comes, it comes hard and heavy. Draining us yet again.
Through it all volunteer and career firefighters and those who shoulder vital resources and care armour up and fight the flames. Not questioning, just doing.
We wring our own hands and ask ‘What can we do? What can we do?”
What can we do?
We can be the quiet whispers of charity, the practical shouts of support.
We can, and we DO hold out our hands with money, machinery, tools, transport, hay, homes, charity, comfort and compassion. We send books, bedding and our best of people to eradicate the flames, evacuate the trapped and medicate wounded wildlife.
We write letters to politicians, dance and sing for donations, we turn up with empty eskies to towns where the tills stopped ringing, we adopt shops, foster goats, flip snags, buy virtual cuppas from café’s with singed decks.
We cart water, mind pets, drive horses to new paddocks and sports gear to burnt schools.
We bandage the legs of roos, and sit in crowded halls cradling koalas so that they won’t cry alone for their mothers.
We bid for auctions, raise glasses for charity, our tip jars fill with coins and we donate wages to cover the shifts of those who cannot work.
We share out, and donate to own the work of artists who show us what we cannot express. We call on the creatives to sew, sing, sculpt, write, paint, photograph and film our way through grief and healing.
“What can we do?”
Australia – look at you – you’re giving it your all.
Hands on shoulders, tools, hoses and wallets.
This is the summer that has reminded us what we have to lose; a summer that smoulders still.
Beyond this burnt summer let’s keep doing it, with hands outstretched – let’s turn these lists of need into actions that help soothe.
Take your empty esky, turn your ears towards the recovery efforts and firmly write your name on sign-up sheets, buy bushfire local, roll-on back, re-think your holidays and wander routes where you are welcome with open arms.
Fight flames with hope.
Soothe with support.
Empty Esky / Holiday Here Postscript:
My park ranger husband has been deployed to East Gippsland fires this summer, a region we love, and used to call home. During Australia Day week we welcomed him back home and turned right back around to show East Gippsland some extra TLC with our tourist dollars while reconnecting as a family.
We swapped our traditional trailer-sailor family holiday and rented a bigger boat through Riviera Nautic and we made sure Gippslanders are benefiting from our empty esky and holiday budget support. There’s the diligent kerthunk of distant military choppers flying in supplies, the breeze brings occasional smoky days and ash on the beach drifts in and out with the tides. In spite of this, or perhaps because of this, we soaked in it’s beauty.
Where it can, East Gippsland has put out nature’s welcome mat in spite of its wounds and welcomes us back. The towns of Paynesville, Metung and Lakes Entrance and so many hamlets in between are open for business, quietly keening for our care.